Photo by Kleigh Balugo
If you knew me in middle school, you probably know that I was obsessed with the one and only Hunger Games trilogy. I devoured the books once the series popped up on my radar via Tumblr. I went to the premiere of the first movie, going so far as to wear a leather jacket and my hair in a side braid, paired with a Mockingjay pinned to my jacket. I had posters, t-shirts, everything. To make matters even more embarrassing, I had an Instagram dedicated to The Hunger Games. Thankfully, I met a lot of cool people who were into the series as well, some of who are still my friends to this day.
Now, as I do with anything related to my years in middle school, I cringe at the mention of anything Hunger Games. I find my obsession with the series incredibly embarrassing, lamenting the amount of money I must have spent on Hot Topic t-shirts, and internally screaming at the embarrassing Instagram posts I must have made. Why did I have to fangirl over these characters in a series where children are forced to fight to the death? Last year, I finally donated my copies of the trilogy, hoping to forget the whole ordeal entirely.
However, I have been forced to put this embarrassment aside. This semester, in my Children’s and YA literature class, The Hunger Games was on our reading list. Revisiting The Hunger Games as an adult, I realized that when I first read the series, there was a lot that not only I missed as a middle schooler, but my peers and the media missed as well.
For one, the love triangle. The media, including promo for the movie, centered on the love triangle, asking anyone and everyone: Team Peeta or Team Gale? Evidently, this was an attempt to capitalize on the success of Twilight‘s love triangle, but it completely overshadowed the message Suzanne Collins was attempting to relay to the audience.
Just like the Capitol, we fell for the entertainment of Katniss and Peeta’s romance, instead of focusing on the issues the books highlighted. The themes of materialism, oppression, and the gap between the rich and the poor are forgotten. It is no longer a trilogy about a government profiting from violence between children, but a romance and entertainment to distract the masses.
Rereading the trilogy, I feel ashamed that I fell for the distractions of romance and action just as the citizens of the Capitol did. I ignored and forgot Collins’ commentary on materialism, capitalism, and government. I focused on Team Peeta versus Team Gale, when in reality, Katniss’s romance with Peeta was a façade in order to ensure their survival. We latched onto the drama, idolized the actors, forgot the message.
As I have gotten older, I have read plenty of new material since my first reading with The Hunger Games. The trilogy sparked an obsession with dystopian literature not just for me but the young adult genre as a whole. Then I connected with Lara Jean, followed the adventures of some crazy rich Asians, and resonated with Michelle Obama. These new literary experiences further altered how I view the books I read so long ago.
Collins’s writing in the book seems so simplistic, Katniss seeming more blunt and unemotional than before. Long ago I may have idolized her, now I feel indifferent towards her. I feel bad for the situation she is in, but I do not like her enough to put a poster of her on my wall, as I did when I was in middle school. And no, this is not because I have matured and moved on from being an obsessive fan of things. The anime posters on my wall say hi.
I guess all of this is just to say: I’ve grown up, and rereading The Hunger Games made me painfully aware of that. It also brought up a plethora of cringe-worthy memories that I want everyone, not just me, to forget. I am much older and somewhat wiser than that middle school fangirl I once was, and that makes it impossible for me to simply ignore the greater themes of the novel to focus solely on romance and violence.